*****= An all-time favorite
****Love, Greg and Lauren
by Greg Manning
A Sonderbooks' Best Book of 2002 (#3, Biographical Nonfiction)
Bantam Books, 2002. 311 pages.
This is another book about September 11, but this one is unlike any other.
On September 11th, Lauren Manning was running a little late getting to work. She had been making some business calls and lingered over her good-bys with her ten-month-old son. Her husband was going in later, since it had been decided that he wasn’t needed at the 8:00 meeting at the Windows on the World restaurant.
She got out of her cab and entered the lobby of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. At that moment, a fireball exploded down the elevator shaft and blew her back out the door, setting her on fire. She ran across the street, avoiding falling debris, where a passerby was able to put out the fire and get her into an ambulance. She was the first person evacuated.
Greg Manning was called from St. Vincent’s hospital not long after. Lauren was still coherent and asked to go to a burn unit. She told her husband, “Greg, I was on fire. I ran out. I prayed to die. Then I decided to live for Tyler and for you.”
This book tells the story of her heroic fight to survive. She was burned on 83% of her body, giving her about a 17% chance of making it. The book is made up of Greg Manning’s nightly e-mail updates on Lauren’s condition to friends and family. This makes the story immediate and gripping. Although we know she makes it (by the back cover), we experience the fear along with her husband as he can hardly dare hope that she will survive.
This book again takes September 11 from the big, abstract numbers to the human side of the tragedy and horror. Can you imagine what it would be like for her to wake up after a month and a half in a drug-induced coma? She asked if the building was being dismantled. Her husband answered, “Crews are working on it.” She still didn’t know about the other planes or even if it was definitely an act of terrorism. Worst of all, she didn’t know that almost 700 people from her company, Cantor Fitzgerald, were dead.
Greg Manning is an excellent writer. He simple statement of the facts leaves us feeling the pain and hope along with him. This would be a great story even if it were only a novel. As it is, it packs a powerful punch.
Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.
All rights reserved.